There are a couple of problems with reading Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit on an hour long train journey. The first is; you want to ensure that nobody is sitting around you because it’s grotesque. Creatively grotesque but grotesque none the less. Odds are if somebody cops a glance at any of the content then they may contact the police and tell them that you are reading a snuff comic in a public place.
The second is that it probably doesn’t take much longer than a quarter of an hour to read. Ryan, whose previous work includes a full issue of Angry Youth Comics guaranteeing at least one sick gag a panel, goes in the opposite direction with Prison Pit, pacing the action in his own sweet time so we can savour every gory move. For this, Ryan’s tone reminds me of Ed the Happy Clown by Chester Brown, only more sick and cruel.
Ryan is a connoisseur of horror, gore and violence and in this book, it really shows. In Angry Youth Comics, he drew in an uncomplicated style, for Prison Pit, he seems to relish drawing the bruises and the entrails and the gloomy atmosphere of the prison planet interior. I can imagine Ryan chuckling to himself and he draws one character pulling the innards of another out through the red stump where his head used to be.
Prison Pit tells the story of a pointy toothed character that is dropped from a height into a strange pit on in a dead planet. I say story but really it’s an excuse to draw/read violent arseholes punching, kicking, slicing and decapitating each other. Ryan’s pacing is masterful and his comic timing perfect. The opening scene where the prison ship lowers a tunnel into the opening on the planet’s surface is far more effective at expressing size and grandeur than the opening shot of a space ship passing overhead in Star Wars. And the opening brawl between ‘Fuckface’ and his guard, apart from being disgusting and brutal, is also very funny.
The best way I can think to describe Prison Pit is as WWE wrestling pushed to its logical limit and yet, with its beheadings, drug taking and barbed erections, it still manages to be infinitely less offensive to me.
Cost; I bought this with some birthday money so I got it for free (if you don’t include the obligation I felt to return the gesture when it was their birthday). Prison Pit retails for £9.99 but I got mine for £6.99 from Amazon but I’m sure if you shop around you might be able to find it for cheaper.